HC Deb 17 June 1891 vol 354 cc709-10

Order for Third Reading read.

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I wish to occupy a few moments of the time of the House for the purpose of calling attention to the large increase in the consumption of tea since the reduction of the duty. According to the statistics given by an eminent firm of tea-brokers, the increase in 1890 was between 9,000,000 and 10,000,000 pounds' weight of tea. It may be said that at the time of the reduction of the 2d. on the Tea Duty a large amount of tea has been kept in bond, and was suddenly drawn out. But the statistics, as far as they are available, show that the increase has continued. This is an indication that the enjoyment of a healthy beverage is prevented by the duty placed upon it. It is a serious consideration that the effect of a tax of this kind is to keep down below the natural level the consumption of an article of necessity. I think it is quite plain that the present or any succeeding Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot stop at the present point, and that the whole tendency of opinion and of expediency will urge them on until the duty is finally abolished. Apart from the inconvenience involved, there is always an amount of uneasiness occasioned among business men by the existence of the duty and its possible alteration. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear this matter in mind. It is not only the duty that has to be considered, but also the expense of collecting it; and both fall disproportionately on the poor, because the teas recently sold at fabulous prices do not pay any more duty than the cheapest teas.

*MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)

I do not wish for more than a moment to stop the progress of this Bill; but I do wish to say this—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer greatly surprised me yesterday, when I had no opportunity of reply, in using what I hope I may, without offence, characterise as some very naïve and extraordinary arguments. I cannot but ask him to read the Memorandum of the Income Tax Commissioners of 1863, and I venture to say that, notwithstanding his denial, I am still of opinion that those Commissioners knew perfectly well what the practice was, and that they stated truthfully what they knew. There will be a subsequent opportunity on the Estimates, when it is possible that circumstances will arise which may make it my duty to recur to this subject again.


It is impossible that this tax should not be collected. We are bound by law to collect it. The hon. Member could not expect a different reply. In the meantime, there is satisfaction in reflecting that the reduction of the duty is one of the causes of the increased consumption of tea. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Eccles, I understand he intends to discuss the question of the Estimates, and it is not desirable I should now deal with the important point he has brought before the House.

Bill read the third time, and passed.